Nine Pound Hammer on Bluegrass Banjo

Today I got into splitting some firewood for my log cabin’s wood stove and ran into some especially gnarly oak butts that were still waiting to be split and stacked on the woodpile. Since one particular round was putting up a pretty good fight, I brought out my favorite steel wedge and my heaviest maul, an 8-pounder. As I was slamming the maul into the wedge, I got to thinking that the maul was pretty dang heavy. As I was pounding away, I started singing that old bluegrass song, “Nine Pound Hammer.” The first verse suddenly became very real:

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Diamond Joe

Gene Autry with an acoustic guitar

By Wayne Erbsen

I’ve always been a sucker for a good ole cowboy song. This isn’t because I was born and raised on a cattle ranch in Texas; I’m actually a native of southern California. Growing up in the late ’40s and early ’50s, I was raised on a diet of TV westerns like Hopalong Cassidy, The Lone Ranger, Maverick, Rawhide, The Rifleman, Bonanza, and Have Gun – Will Travel. Actually, I was listening to The Lone Ranger and Gunsmoke on the radio before they became popular TV shows. My favorite movies were Shane

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Fox on the Run

Cliff Waldren

By Wayne Erbsen

In the early 1970s, Fox on the Run was among the most requested bluegrass songs. Along with Rocky Top — a bluegrass band could scarcely play a show without fans yelling for Rocky Top or Fox on the Run.” The song was written in 1968 by an Englishman named Tony Hazzard and first recorded as a rock song by Manfred Mann in February, 1969.

The first bluegrass band to record Fox on the Run was Cliff Waldren and the New Shades of Grass. Listening to this bluegrass recording, a lot of people were puzzled by one

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Drifting Too Far From the Shore

Charles E. Moody was not your average gospel songwriter. He alone wrote both the words and the melody of two of the bedrock classics of country and bluegrass gospel, “Kneel at the Cross” and “Drifting Too Far From the Shore.” To get a handle on this man and the songs he wrote, let’s go back to Moody’s beginnings in rural Georgia.

One of eight children, Moody was born in a log cabin on October 8, 1891, near Tifton, Georgia. In this rural farming community, music was a favorite pastime, and as a young man Moody learned to play the harmonica

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Happy Songs of Sunshine and Light, and ‘Short Life of Trouble’

A while back I was invited to bring an instrument to a potluck party of some friends of mine in the mountains near Asheville, North Carolina. I brought along my fiddle in the hopes of finding some bluegrass musicians to jam with.

When I arrived at the converted barn where the party was being held, I saw a guitar learning up against the corner, so I sidled up to the guitar’s owner and introduced myself. As I shook howdy with him I asked him what kind of music he played, so I’d know whether our styles would be compatible. But

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‘Shortenin’ Bread”‘ – Ukulele Tab + Lyrics

“Shortenin’ Bread” has certainly wins a prize for longevity. After all, it has been around for over 150 years. This version of “Shortenin’ Bread” comes from my new book, Ukulele for the Complete Ignoramus!

I can’t tell you why, but I find playing Shortenin’ Bread almost addictive. When I start to play it, I can barely force myself to stop. I must not be alone because this song has been popular since the early to mid 1800’s. The song was first collected and published in 1915, and was known as a ‘plantation song.’ All this talk about shortenin’ bread

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They Gotta Quit Kickin’ My Dog Around

Ev’ry time I come to town
The boys keep kickin’ my dawg aroun’;
Makes no difference if he is a houn’,
They gotta quit kickin’ my dawg aroun’.

Me an’ Lem Briggs an’ old Bill Brown
Took a load of corn to town;
My old Jim dawg, onery old cuss,
He just naturally follered us.

As we drive past Johnson’s store
A passel of yaps come out the door;
Jim he scooted behind a box
With all them fellers a-throwin’ rocks.

They tied a can to old Jim’s tail
An’ run him a-past the county jail;
That just naturally made

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Roll On Buddy” – Lyrics + Tab for Mandolin and Fiddle

While doing some research on one of the songs for my book Bluegrass Jamming on Mandolin, I uncovered some interesting things about the song “Roll On Buddy,” which is considered a bluegrass standard as recorded by Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys. On May 17, 1924 Al Hopkins & His Buckle Busters recorded “Baby Your Time Ain’t Long” with Charlie Bowman on fiddle. Four years later, Charlie Bowman & His Brothers used this exact same melody on a song they called “Roll On Buddy.” Although usually thought to be a traditional song, “Roll on Buddy” was apparently composed by

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‘Run Mountain’ – Music + Lyrics

Among the more bizarre songs in old-time and early country music is one called Run Mountain. The song is curious both for the melody and because some of the lyrics are rather mysterious. The melody is set in the key of G but it starts in the key of A. By the time the chorus comes around, it is in the key of G. Are you confused yet? If so, join the club!  As if the melody and the key changes are not strange enough, what really takes the cake are the words to the chorus. More on this

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‘Fall On My Knees’ – Clawhammer Banjo Tab + Lyrics

Clawhammer Banjo CoverMore than forty years ago I wrote my first banjo book, Clawhammer Banjo for the Complete Ignoramus. About five years ago I decided it was time for a follow up, so I started working on it. Recently we received delivery of the new book – Clawhammer Banjo ~ Tunes, Tips & Jamming. To make it easy to use, the new book has coil binding and contains 44 tunes not included in the Ignoramus. I’ve also loaded it with playing and jamming tips as well as information to help people join jams and improvise plus almost 200 vintage photos

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